When my father was three years old, he was sentenced to a brutal death, along with his mother and infant sister, by the Turkish government. Along with hundreds of thousands of other Armenians, they were earmarked to be herded into the Syrian desert where they would die of starvation, disease, or worse -- torture and death at the hands of brutal soldiers or hordes of roving bandits.
It was 1915, and the grisly and premeditated genocide of the Armenian people was at its peak. The Armenians in that area that were not butchered outright -- the men were often killed immediately -- were herded together and deported by force into the Derzor, the Syrian desert east of Aleppo, to perish. My father's father, a doctor, had been pressed into the Turkish army against his will, to head a medical regiment.
"One of my earliest recollections, I was not quite three years old at the time," my father, Vahey Kupelian, told me a year before he died in 1988, "the wagon we were in had tipped over, my hand was broken and bloody, and mother was looking for my infant sister who had rolled away. The next thing I remember after that, mother was on a horse, holding my baby sister, and had me sitting behind her, saying, 'Hold on tight, or the Turks will get you!"
The three of them took off, and ended up in Aleppo, which was one of the gateways to the desert deportation and certain death.
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